Perhaps my most controversial prediction about Gen C (born after 1996) is their tendency towards introversion. By introversion, I use here the Jungian definition, as one who prefers to recharge his energy in solitude or in small groups.
I’m not implying that a whole generation of introverts is born. There are neurological factors that just can’t be ignored! At the same time, introversion has also a strong cultural dimension to it (or else how could we explain higher rates of introverts in Japan than in the US?), so my contention is that world events in the formative years of Gen C will likely increase the percentage of introverts in the general population of several nations, when compared to previous generations.
This may sound counter-intuitive as many of the Gen C traits described in the previous posts are often associated with extraversion: Communicative, Collaborative and Culturally Aware. However, by analyzing over the next paragraphs some events during Gen C’s childhood, it’s easy to observe that the psychological effects and adopted behaviors are those that have been proved to be highly correlated with introversion, namely, stressful childhood, withdrawal, highly developed observational skills, preference for interactions with individuals over large groups, reduced opportunities for group interactions and avoidance of unnecessary public disclosures.
When you look into the most striking events of the last 2 decades, we observe the rise of fundamentalist terrorism (epitomized by 9/11, London bombings and the disgraceful Iraq and Afghan Wars) and the rise of school shootings and bullying. The former was very present in the adult world and discussed at the dinner table, while the latter was experienced as a daily threat by the child. Few generations of children in the developed Western world have grown under such stress and the one that experienced such a degree of turmoil in their immediate world was the Silent Generation (the last introverted generation).
In the face of exaggerated retaliation to mild faux-pas (think of Mohamed’s cartoon or school shootings), the child overadapts by withdrawing from conflict and taking a more observational stance in everyday life. This observation will help her develop a high cultural awareness, a skill that makes sense in a multi-paradigm, interconnected world, where people from different cultures are thrown together without necessarily having developed enough empathy to get along.
Taking this talent of observation further, a Gen C individual might develop the skills of comfortably walking from a systems-value to another (Cultural Polyglot) or acting as a detached cross-cultural translator of values, thus thriving in one-on-one relationships characteristic of introverts (for those familiar with Spiral Dynamics, this is the Yellow Paradigm of Fluidity).
Furthermore, the solitary/connected lifestyle of our days, the possibility of collaborating by distance and the preference for asynchronous forms of communication will further reduce the opportunities for Gen C individuals to experience energy-recharging social events that are so appreciated by extroverts.
To top it off, the current events of privacy violations by governments and the Big Data revolution might encourage Gen C to adopt a more discrete approach to the disclosure of their personal lives both in their virtual and real lives (another common introvert trait). However, as the consequences of data mining are widely ignored by the general population, we’ll have to wait a few more years to understand what impact those events will have on Gen C adults’ future behaviour.
According to introversion expert Susan Cain, it was the demographic movement to the cities during the first half of the last century that encouraged the dictatorship of an extrovert culture. At that time, community values of companionship and consistency were undermined by the need to make fast connections in a rapidly growing city. In the new century, as we evolve into a more and more isolated lifestyle in a (dis)connected world, it is likely that during Gen C’s adulthood we’ll experience the rise of the dictatorship of introversion.
Do you agree that Gen C will have a tendency towards introversion?
Please share your views and stories!